My second multi-day hike, through the dreamy and stunning landscape of Terkey Ala-Too in the Tienshan mountains of Kyrgyzstan.
It appeared that the Kyrgyzstan tourism board went on a massive campaign one of the years (probably 2016/17) and got many travel bloggers traveling to and writing about Kyrgyzstan. Picturesque landscapes of lush valleys and snow capped peaks were all over social media channels. Beyond comparisons to New Zealand, there was the draw of venturing where routes were established but sparsely travelled. Soon enough, I was trawling the net for everything I could find for a half to one week long hike that was somewhat remote but not too dangerous.
Most opt for a 3 day hike from Karakol Valley to Altyn Arashan, but I opted for something slightly longer and started from Jeti Oguz, adding 2 days before reaching Karakol Valley. It was an eye-opening experience hiking in a country that was opening up to tourism but had not reached the level of mass commercialization. Some infrastructure such as tourism offices and camping equipment rentals were available, while trails were less clear compared to the others I had been on, and locals were often amused and curious about foreigners traveling through, especially through the mountains.
There was lots of alone time to either be in awe of the dramatic landscapes or question my life choices along the way, especially on the first 2 days. While it was surreal seeing that the Instagram portrayals were as real as can be, nothing can quite replicate the emotions of being at that bottom of the deep valley staring at the immense peak rising at the end of the it, camping next to a frozen waterfall and catching the Milky Wave rise above it, or sitting alone at the top of a snow covered mountain pass enjoying a hot cup of tea.